Leaving Home to Attend College

Living on Your Own, Going Away to College, Moving Out, Empty Nest Syndrome
Curated By
Therese Basham

Therese Basham is an independent Marketing and Communications Consultant based in St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to being a stay-at-home mom to her son and daughter for the past twenty years, she has remained engaged as a free-lance marketing communications writer, photographer, and videographer. She recently joined the Association of Professional Photo Organizers and is now helping individuals bring order to their digital and physical photo and video collections. Therese is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where she studied marketing and psychology. Both of her kids are currently in college.

In This Guide:

Whether they will be staying an hour down the road, or traveling out of state, leaving home to attend college is a big, life-changing event for the student, parents, and the rest of the family and friends. The new college attendee in particular can easily be overwhelmed with a rush of many different emotions - excitement, fear, anxiety, panic, happiness, loneliness, doubt, etc. The first semester is always the most difficult as the new student is trying to become acclimated to life away from home, balancing school work with a social life, and making good decisions on their own. This is a very challenging transition for both children and parents, and this guide was designed to provide insight from the student's perspective so that family and friends can confidently encourage and inspire the new college student as they begin their journey at a new school away from home.  

They Might Be Thinking:

  • What if I don't get along with my roommate(s)?
  • It's so overwhelming to think about finding all new friends in college. 
  • I’m going to miss my friends from high school.
  • What if I don't get the classes I want?
  • Will I get homesick?
  • I’m worried I will be pressured to drink or do drugs. 
  • Will I have time to work out and take care of myself?
  • I know I’m going to miss home-cooked food. Will I like the food options there? Will they be healthy?
  • I’m going to miss my pet so much.
  • Where will I go if I get sick?
  • I know college can be very stressful and I’m concerned I won’t be able to handle it. 

Words That Might Be Encouraging:

  • Don’t expect to be best friends with your roommate. If you wind up being friends, that’s just a wonderful bonus. As long as you are respectful of one another, you will have a good living situation. 
  • Talk about your expectations with your roommate before you move in together so you know what you each expect from the other.
  • Be confident and be yourself because you are uniquely amazing. 
  • Be positive and you will attract positive people. 
  • Ask people to go to lunch, to study together, or just to hang out. This is a great time to make life-long friends so be open to putting yourself out there and trying new things. 
  • Join clubs and organizations in which you have an interest. Not only will this provide good networking and experience opportunities, but you will meet people with whom you have something in common.
  • If you don’t get the class schedule you want at first, keep trying. Classes will open up as kids drop and change their schedules. Persistence pays off!
  • Meet with your advisor on a regular basis to make sure you are on track to graduate and to get advice regarding classes. 
  • Most people feel homesick at one time or another. When you do, reach out and call home and express how you feel. Then go out and meet somebody for a meal, or to study or work out to take your mind off of it. 
  • I trust you to make good decisions and listen to your inner voice. If you find yourself in a situation that doesn’t feel right, be sure to remove yourself.
  • Don’t ever drink and then drive or get into a car with someone who has been drinking. Call Lyft or Uber for a ride. Your safety is most important. 
  • Take care of yourself by eating healthy, working out, and getting plenty of sleep. 
  • There are a lot of great ways to stay active in college, including club and intramural sports, classes at the rec center, and fitness and outdoor clubs. You will have many options so find something you enjoy doing!
  • Explore things that pique your interest - clubs, church groups, work study opportunities, etc. 
  • There are usually a lot of different meal plan options on most campuses, so be sure to check them out.
  • Many colleges offer nutritionists to make sure you are finding food that meets your needs, so don’t be afraid to reach out to somebody if you have concerns. 
  • Instead of taking your pet to college or getting a new one once you get there, contact the local shelter because a lot of them will let you walk a dog or cuddle a cat on a regular basis. 
  • Check to see if the student health center accepts your health insurance before you leave. If it doesn't, look for an urgent care center near campus that does. 
  • Stress is inevitable. Learn how to cope with stress and remember that most things that seem so overwhelming right now won’t matter in the future. 
  • You will never be in another situation with so many other people your age - enjoy yourself!
  • Call me any time. I’d love to hear about your experience.
  • I'm so proud of you and I know you can handle this. 
  • Live in the moment and enjoy this wonderful time in your life!

Words That Might Be Discouraging:

  • You should only live with somebody you already know and are really good friends with. 
  • Make sure you move in first so you get the space you want and get all of your stuff put away before your roommate gets there. 
  • College is a great time to try on a new persona, so think about how you want to come off to other people and then conform your behavior to that. 
  • Don’t get too wrapped up in a social life. You are there to get an education, and that should be your sole focus. You have lots of friends from high school you can stay in contact with on social media. 
  • If you don’t get the classes you want, let me know and I’ll call the school and straighten it out for you. 
  • If you are homesick, you can always come home and go to school somewhere nearby.
  • I want to know where you are at all times, so let’s download a tracking app on your phone.
  • You’d better not drink any alcohol or go to parties. You aren’t there just to party.
  • Watch out for the “freshman fifteen!” People always gain weight when they go away to school.
  • You should get a pet once you get there!
  • It’s so expensive for you to go to this school - you’d better get straight As!
  • Don’t stress out. 
  • Call me every day!
  • Keep your eyes on the prize and stay focused on the future. 
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